0 Alumna Chelsea Ellis receiving an alumni award from President Lewis.

Chelsea Ellis Receives Houghton University’s First Fearless Award

October 13, 2022

This year, it is a privilege to present the first-ever Fearless Award. Established by President Wayne D. Lewis, Jr., the Fearless Award is presented to a Houghton alumnus, alumna or friend whose life, journey and testimony clearly represent what it means to be a fearless follower of Jesus Christ; displaying the fruit of the Holy Spirit and supreme confidence in the power of God to overcome challenges and adversity.

2012 alumna Chelsea Ellis might have deserved this award prior to the catastrophic accident in 2020 that left her paralyzed. A psychology major with minors in physical education, sociology and art, Chelsea’s life as a Houghton student was packed full of engagement across campus. Chelsea was a four-year member of Gospel Choir, and sang in Women’s Choir as well. She participated in intramural sports playing volleyball and handball. She participated in Highlander Wilderness Adventure and was the photographer for the 2012 edition of The Boulder. She co-hosted SPOT her senior year and had photographs regularly published in The STAR.

By her senior class photo in the 2012 edition of The Boulder, Chelsea left a quote from Hillsong: “Break my heart for what breaks yours, everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause.” It wasn’t a quote she left behind idly.

In 2013, she reported to Houghton Magazine that she had finished an 11-month mission trip to 11 different countries, an experience known as “The World Race.” In 2016, she joined AmeriCorp. She’s sailed down the Amazon River to remote villages and carried the Gospel of Jesus into hostile environments. In August of 2016, Chelsea accepted a position as an ESL teacher at Lafayette High School in Buffalo. Her life and actions made it clear that her senior quote prayer, to have a heart broken for the cause of Christ, was in fact answered.

In April of 2020, everything changed for Chelsea. She was struck by a car, an accident which dislocated her c1 vertebra and fractured her C2 vertebra, leaving her with quadriplegia and loss of most bodily functions. Her spinal cord injury was noted to be the worst ever seen at the renowned Craig Hospital in Colorado, which specializes in spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries. Chelsea spent several months in rehabilitation in Colorado, a time which involved the painful process of relearning nearly everything most of us take for granted. She communicates through eyes and by mouthing words, having lost her voice; has slowly relearned how to chew and swallow; and is currently learning how to breathe without a ventilator.

Every living moment of Chelsea’s life is now an act of fearless praise for the One who made her. And she hasn’t let her physical condition stop her from continuing to minister to those around her. Through use of social media or in communicating with those who visit her, Chelsea remains a blessing and encouragement to everyone she meets. She occasionally hosts small group Bible study in her home, and recently delivered the 2022 Commencement Speech at Lafayette International High School, where she used to teach refugee and immigrant students.

Current Houghton education major, Yguette Rudahindwa ’23, credits her choice to pursue her studies at Houghton in part to Chelsea. Yguette worked with Chelsea prior to Chelsea’s accident and remains in contact with her.

When I think of Chelsea, I think about the story of the Good Samaritan. When I moved to Buffalo as a refugee, Chelsea became my first American friend who welcomed me into her home when I needed it the most. It has been a blessing to see how selfless she is in giving and in loving strangers like me. I want to be like her when I grow up. She is a true definition of what it means to live fearlessly and to love in a world that is so broken.


According to Chelsea’s aunt, Linda Jackson, “Chelsea seeks Jesus’ face continually. She has never been afraid to swim upstream or to go against the grain with the confidence of who she is in the Lord. She knows who she is and whose she is, always shining her true identity in Jesus despite the challenges that surround her. Chelsea continues to press on, drawing others closer to Jesus in the process.”

For her fearless pursuit of Jesus and her fearless faithfulness to the cause of Christ, in spite of tremendous obstacles, it is a privilege to present Chelsea Ellis with the first-ever 2022 Fearless Award.